Man with 65 prior arrests granted bond after latest trip to jail on drug charges

It seems??difficult to comprehend. An inmate with 65 prior arrests was granted??bond after yet another arrest -- and the Fulton County district attorney says he's not the only one.

FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — It seems difficult to comprehend. An inmate with 65 prior arrests was granted bond after yet another arrest -- and the Fulton County district attorney says this isn't the only such case.

We found a list of incarcerations for Reginald Coleman going back to the '70s when he was a teen and references to a 2004 aggravated assault, a 2008 robbery by force and a 2015 theft by shoplifting sentence.

We also found Coleman's records indicate he was indicted last month on drug charges.

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"Even though those defendants, many of them, have been arrested as many as 65 times, our magistrates are setting a bond amount," District Attorney Paul Howard said.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne talked one-on-one with Coleman on Monday.

"You've been to state prison around seven times, right? Are you a dangerous guy?" Winne asked.

"No," Coleman responded.

Coleman told Winne he's innocent in regard to his latest charge.

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"Have you changed your ways?" Winne asked.

"Pretty much. The older you get, the wiser you get," Coleman said.

Chief Magistrate Judge Cassandra Kirk said Fulton County jails are bursting at the seams and while magistrates do their best to protect the community, the bond is not punitive, so some people with prior charges will be approved for release with appropriate conditions and monitoring.

We're told the list covers less than a month: June 28 through July 18, and it suggests many others granted bond had double-digit arrest histories.

Examples:

  • 45 prior arrests and a $10,000 bond for a robbery by force suspect.
  • 19 prior arrests for an aggravated assault suspect accused of pulling a gun on the victim and chasing the victim with an ax was granted a $15,000 bond. The DA's Office says he has a 1992 South Carolina manslaughter reduced from murder.
  • 33 priors and a $1,000 bond for a cocaine suspect already on probation, sentenced seven times to probation.

It's important to note being granted bond doesn't mean you make bond.

"A $15,000 bond means you need to post a $1,500 with the bail bondsman, correct?" Winne asked Coleman. "So you have a chance at doing that?"

"No I don't," he replied.

As of Aug. 16, the District Attorney's Office indicated 16 of the 38 on the list had made bond, with an average of 11 prior arrests, an average of three prior felony convictions, six defendants already on probation and three already on bond for a prior charge.

Kirk said in an adversarial system, it's not unusual the magistrate would disagree with the prosecution on bond sometimes.

She said the Fulton County magistrate judges are participating in a program to give judges appropriate tools to protect the community and the defendants' constitutional rights.